Hundreds of people on the beach in Barcelona. | EFE/Quique Garcia

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French Junior European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune advised French people on Thursday to avoid Spain and Portugal for their summer holidays, due to risks tied to the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant.

"To those who have not yet booked their holidays, I say avoid Spain and Portugal as destinations. It is a prudent advice, a recommendation," Beaune told France 2 TV.

The ministry later specified that "travel to Spain and Portugal and anywhere else in Europe remains authorised...We are sending a message of caution on Portugal and Catalonia which are strongly impacted by the Delta variant."

Spain's health minister warned on Wednesday that young people can develop severe cases of COVID-19 and asked for their co-operation in taming an infection rate that has more than doubled in a week as the Delta variant tears through unvaccinated younger adults.

Scrambling to bring the contagion under control, the northeastern Spanish region of Catalonia will shut down nightclubs from Friday, just weeks after opening them.